From: Froh, J, J. & Parks, A. C. (Eds.) (2013) Activities for Teaching Positive Psychology: A Guide for Instructors.
Research suggests that people who flourish in life, and are happy and productive, have certain psychological traits in common. These traits are habits of perceiving and thinking about the world and our place in it. The term commonly used for these habits of thinking is “positive psychology”. The most important thing for you to realize is that positive psychology traits can be learned through practice. YOU can learn habits of thinking that will help you be happier, more productive, excel in college, and change the world around you.
The following journaling exercises will help you learn the pillars, or principles, of positive psychology and begin to implement the practices into your daily life. Our goal is that by the end of Fall term you will internalize and practice habits that will help you excel in college and the rest of your life.
A Connection to Something Bigger
We tend to exist largely within psychological boundaries that can restrict our experience of the world. This exercise is to gently push the edges of your boundaries and connect with larger experiences in ways that have purpose. In other words, we want to do things not merely for the sake of doing them but to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. This exercise involves steadfast commitment. Without the commitment to implement habits of positive psychology, it is unlikely you will experience the full benefit.
Create a new Journal entry on Blackboard. Please answer the prompts honestly; only you, the Peer Leader and your Instructor will be able to read your answers.
Pillar #1: Positive Emotion: subjective well-being, happiness, gratitude, savoring, flow, signature strengths, imagining possibilities.
Pillar #2: Meaning: positive institutions, virtues, contribution, service, altruism, hope, future-mindedness, positive deviance.
Pillar #3: Positive Relationships: social connections; intimate relationships, positive interactions, pets, church/spiritual communities, professional work, interest groups: teams, military units, support groups.
Pillar #4: Positive Accomplishments: mastery, competence, achievement, success, new skills acquisition.
Refer to the list you created in Step 1: Next to each of the things you listed, assign a number that represents the pillar that best matches that item. You may list more than one pillar next to an item.
Subjects in an experiment (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006) were instructed to spend time visualizing and writing about their best possible future selves. Test subjects were told:
“You have been randomly assigned to think about your best possible self now, and during the next few weeks. “Think about your best possible self” means that you imagine yourself in the future, after everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. You are identifying the best possible way that things might turn out in your life, in order to help guide your decisions now. You may not have thought about yourself in this way before, but research suggests that doing so can have a strong positive effect on your mood and life satisfaction. So, we’d like to ask you to continue thinking in this way over the next few weeks, following up on the initial writing that you’re about to do.”
After four weeks, test subjects who practiced this visualization technique experienced more positive emotions than control subjects. The purpose of this journaling exercise is to help you increase your positive emotions and optimism for your future through visualization practice.
Create a new Journal entry. Visualize your best possible future self, a future in which all things went well. Document that vision in your journal by answering the following questions:
In four weeks you will reflect on these questions again. Based on your daily experiences between now and then, try to detail your “best possible future self” by reflecting each night on your vision and the strengths you have right now to help achieve it.
One of the primary attributes of people who flourish in life is a "Growth Mindset" which enables them to keep positive, adapt to change and excel in what they do. We all have Fixed Mindsets in some ways, the key is identifying them and working to change to a Growth Mindset.
Read the differences between a Fixed Mindset and a Growth Mindset and then identify where you are for each category, Desire, Evaluation of Situations, etc. A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.
In your Journal describe the ways you have a Growth Mindset and the ways you have a Fixed Mindset. What BEHAVIORS can you implement to have more of a Growth Mindset? Behaviors are important to focus on because saying "I'll change the way I think." is vague and easy to forget. Practiced behaviors can become habits and solidify a Growth Mindset.
Evaluation of Situations
Dealing with Setbacks
Success of others
We are now returning to Journal Assignment 2, "Imagining your best possible self", to see how reflecting on your strengths has helped you on the path to achieving your best possible self.
Remember the goal is to imagine yourself in the future, after everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. You are identifying the best possible way that things might turn out in your life, in order to help guide your decisions now.
After four weeks, previous test subjects who practiced this visualization technique experienced more positive emotions than control subjects. The purpose of this journaling exercise is to help you increase your positive emotions and optimism for your future through visualization practice.
Create a new Journal entry.